Thirteen Issues for Churches in 2013 Continued

13-issuesThom Ranier finished his blog postings entitled Thirteen Issues for Churches in 2013, with issues 7-13 today.

Here are the trends in churches that he is noticing.

  1. Innovative use of space. More and more churches are not letting the lack of space keep them from ministering to great numbers of people. It used to be that a church sitting on 3-5 acres could expect to grow to about 500 people maximum on that property. Ranier states that the younger leaders that he is working with say that they can see a church growing to 2,000 in such a space, because they are using the space creatively, offering services at multiple times and in multiple ways. Millennial pastors are not as tied to traditional service times and this opens up opportunities to use space in new and innovative ways.
  2. Heightened conflict. As younger leaders continue to assume leadership roles in more and more churches, the conflict between the needs of generations emerges. Ranier attributes this in part to those in the Millennial Generation asking tough questions that people in the the Boomer and Builder generations did not want to address. I am challenged and inspired by some of the difficult questions that folks coming into our church ask on a regular basis.
  3. Adversarial government. Ranier believes that churches will have less access to public schools and other public facilities. He has noticed that some local governments around the country are governments are “resisting approval of non-tax paying congregations expanding their facilities. New churches and existing churches that are expanding their venues will be forced to become more creative as they look for new locations.”
  4. Community focus. Ranier feels that one of the most positive changes in the younger generation of church leaders is a focus on community needs. Churches are increasingly getting away from programs tied to the church building to engage the community where they are at.
  5. Cultural discomfort. Ranier speaks of the growing divide between the value of culture and the traditional values of the church. This is a divide that will continue to grow in the 21st Century. I view this as a great opportunity for the church of Jesus Christ to shine bright in our day and age. The early church was radically counter-cultural. Somewhere along the line we became so culturally sensitive that we began to look a lot less like the “aliens and strangers” of Scripture and a lot more like the Joneses.
  6. Organizational distrust. Ranier speaks of the growing distrust in our culture towards the institution. We live in a day and age when distrust in government, business, and the church is very high. My prayer is that we as the church won’t give people a reason to distrust us. We ought to be the model for what it means to conduct ourselves with the utmost of ethics.
  7. Reductions in church staff. In a difficult economy, more and more churches are not hiring new staff when a position becomes vacant. On a positive note, Ranier writes of the fact that “in many congregations there is a greater emphasis on laypersons handling roles once led by paid staff.”  That sounds a whole lot like Ephesians 4:11-16 to me. In other words, “It sounds biblical, and that is good!”

    11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped,when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on Ranier’s trends and see if you have any more that you would add.

You can read Ranier’s entire post here.

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Thirteen Issues for Churches in 2013

13-issuesThom Ranier has a fascinating post at his blog today entitled Thirteen Issues For Churches in 2013. will face in 2013. He deals with issues 1-6 today and will post the next seven issues in two days.

In today’s post Ranier opines that in 2013 we will see:

1) The impact of the “nones” – The percentage of the U.S. population that claims no religious affiliation increased from 15 percent in 2007 to 20 percent in 2012.

2) Migration back to small groups – I’m thrilled when I read this. Ranier has some good thoughts about this. He writes, “There is an increasing awareness that those who are in groups have a higher level of commitment in almost all areas of church life.”

3) Accelerated closing of churches – Ranier predicts that 8,000-10,000 churches could close their doors for good in 2013.

4) More churches moving to multiple venues – Ranier writes, ” the number of congregations moving to multiple venues is staggering. Indeed that issue may be the single greatest distinguishing factor in growing churches.”

5) The growth of prayer emphasis in local congregations – This one thrills my soul as well. I believe that God loves when we move from being human-centered to God-dependent. It’s so easy to try to do things our way expecting things to happen on our timetables in church. When we sincerely seek God’s direction, His wisdom, and His timing, He has room to work.

6) Fickle commitment – Ranier has some interesting thoughts on the low commitment level of the American church.

These are interesting thoughts. I’m looking forward to reading his other seven issues for the church in 2013. Care to guess what some might be? Share your thoughts in the comment section.

Good Things Come in Small Packages

radicalidea
A Radical Idea: Unleashing the People of God for the Purpose of God (10-Pack)
A Radical Idea: Unleashing the People of God for the Purpose of God – Kindle Edition

 There is an old axiom that states, Good things come in small packages. I haven’t always believed it. I certainly haven’t believed it when it comes to booklets. When I received a package that contained ten review copies of David Platt’s booklet A Radical Idea I was initially disappointed. I’m not sure that I have ever read a tiny booklet and been overly impressed. So, to say that I was surprised to find myself delighted, challenged and convicted in just 52 short pages is a bit of an understatement.
As he has done in his books Radical and Radical Together, Platt challenges readers to move beyond the complacency and consumerism of the American church and into true discipleship. In his opening pages Platt writes, “God-exalting men and women do not have the time to waste their lives pursuing a Christian spin on the American dream.” He then begins to unpack his vision of what the church could look like if together we pursued radical obedience to Christ’s mission to make disciples; which he repeatedly calls “impacting the world with the Spirit of God for the glory of God.”Platt, who pastors a mega-church in a multi-million dollar facility, challenges American Christians to rethink church. Increasingly uncomfortable with the massive amounts of dollars that western churches throw into buildings and ministry, Platt challenges us to think about how we are unleashing people for ministry that happens apart from the building. Platt has asked his church leaders to ask themselves how they would do church if they didn’t have the luxury of a building. It is clear that much of Platt’s thinking on church has been developed by his trips to parts of the world where being a follower of Jesus is illegal.He writes on page eleven that, “the goal of the church is never for one person to be equipped and empowered to lead as many people as possible to Christ. The goal is always for all God’s people to be equipped and empowered to lead as many people as possible to Christ.” He then discusses how Jesus used eleven men, who would have been considered the “wrong people” by many in the modern church, to transform the world for Christ.I like to keep a journal when I read books. One of the phrases that I wrote down while reading this book is, “Building the right church, then, is dependent on using all the wrong people” (page 12).Modern churches in other parts of the world and certainly the early church have not been built around great communicators, fantastic programs, state of the art facilities and worship. These churches have grown because of a desire for the people of God to gather together no matter the cost, for the glory of God. Platt asks his readers to consider, “What if the church itself – the people of God gathered in one place – is intended to be the attraction, regardless of who is teaching or singing that day? This is enough for our brothers and sisters around the world. But is it enough for us?” (page 18).Platt spends the remainder of the book detailing the need for churches to “make disciples who will make disciples who will make disciples, and together multiply the Gospel to all peoples” (see page 47).In the church that I pastor we’ve encouraged each of our members to follow the example of Jesus when it comes to discipleship. Jesus had a core group of three men that He discipled in a greater way than anyone else. He spend three years building into the twelve disciples. He had a group of 70 that he poured into at a lesser level. And, He had the multitudes who he poured into at an even lesser level. Platt’s book challenges us to do a similar thing. He encourages each member of the church to be involved in a discipleship journey with those whom God has brought into their life.

I will be giving A Radical Idea to all of the small group leaders, church staff and elders at our church. It’s nice to have a booklet that can easily be read in 30 minutes or less to give to the core leaders of our congregation. A Radical Idea is a great companion to a discipleship program that seeks to “unleash the people of God for the purpose of God.” (Platt’s terminology, not mine — but I sure like it!) I highly recommend this resource.

To read an excerpt of A Radical Idea, follow this link and click the excerpt tab.

I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.

Soulprint – Book Review

Soulprint
Soulprint: Discovering Your Divine Destiny
Soulprint: Discovering Your Divine Destiny – Kindle Edition

Mark Batterson, Lead Pastor of National Community Church in Washington, D.C. has written a marvelous book, in Soulprint that should leave readers inspired to make a difference in their generation for Jesus Christ.Perhaps living in a city where people are all about making a name for themselves, has allowed Batterson to write a book about our uniqueness without making it sound like it is all about you. There are plenty of books on the market that teach us about our uniqueness, but Batterson writes about the subject with a keen recognition that our uniqueness has more to say about God than it does about us. When we discover who we are, who we are not, and begin

to understand God’s plan for our lives, we can make an impact on the world that will not soon be forgotten.If you are struggling with your purpose in life, wanting to know why God created you the way that He did, this book is for you. If you have read lots of books on identity, purpose, strengths, and spiritual gifts, there is enough new information presented in Batterson’s book that it will give you some new food for thought.This book would work great as a small group curriculum. As a former youth pastor, I think this would be a great book to work through with juniors and seniors in high school, or college students. Dealing with some of these issues in formative years would be a blessing to many of our students. As a dad, I plan  on taking my kids through this book in the very near future.

Are You a Trader?

BluefishTV.com has some fantastic videos that they are allowing people to download for free right now. I wanted to share three of them with you today.

The first is called “Definition of a Trader.”  Check it out – I think you’ll be inspired:

The second video is called “History of Traders.”

There is a third video that I can’t embed on this page called “Church and the Racetrack.” You can watch it by clicking here.

So, how do you feel after watching these videos? Do you sense God telling you something?

From Small Groups to Missional Communities

smallgroups

Woodbury Community Church has set an aggressive goal this year to see 75% of the people who attend our weekend services involved in small groups by the end of this year. Our eventual goal is that 125% of our congregation’s weekend attendance average would be involved in small groups. Why? Because we believe that nothing changes a person more than being a disciple of Jesus Christ, and that disciples are best nurtured in the context of a small group. Small groups allow us to strip away false pretense. Healthy small groups mean that we are known by others. It means that we have a place to be real about our failures and people with whom to celebrate our victories. Life is hard. It was never meant to be lived alone.

My Dad sent me an e-mail last night. The e-mail is an interview with Rick Warren, the pastor of Saddleback Church in California. In the interview Rick says, “Life is a series of problems: Either you are in one now, you’re just coming out of one, or you’re getting ready to go into another one. The reason for this is that God is more interested in your character than your comfortGod is more interested in making your life holy than He is in making your life happy. We can be reasonably happy here on earth, but that’s not the goal of life. The goal is to grow in character, in Christ likeness.”

This year, our church has been studying The Sermon on the Mount. In His revolutionary sermon, Jesus gave his listeners the secret to a life that was blessed by God. Blessing doesn’t always mean happiness this side of heaven. Sometimes blessing means that we get on God’s anvil, and He chisels away the things in our life that need to be formed into something new. The process may hurt, but the end result brings blessing.

Small groups help us through the process. They also help move us to action; away from complacent Christianity and into the spiritual battle. This 4 1/2 minute video by Matt Carter, the pastor of The Austin Stone Community Church in Austin, Texas talks about being a people who live in missional community. It’s a video that has encouraged me today, and I hope it will encourage you.

Sermon Manuscripts and Sermon Based Small Group Questions Now Online

People regularly ask me if the sermons that I preach are available in manuscript form. You may now download .pdf versions of my sermons at the Woodbury Community Church website. You may also download small group questions to help you dive deeper into the content of the sermons. The new sermon and small group content is available by clicking here.